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Turkish tanks trained on northern Iraq in show of force ahead of vote



September 19, 2017

SIRNAK, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkish troops dug in on the country’s southern border on Tuesday and turned their weapons toward Kurdish-run northern Iraq, where authorities plan an independence referendum in defiance of Ankara and Western powers.

Tanks and rocket launchers mounted on armored vehicles faced the Iraqi frontier, about 2 km (one mile) away, and mechanical diggers tore up agricultural fields for the army to set up positions in the flat, dry farmlands.

The military drill, launched without warning on Monday, is due to last until Sept. 26, Turkish military sources said, a day after the planned referendum for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq.

A Reuters reporter saw four armored vehicles carrying heavy weaponry and soldiers taking positions in specially dug areas, their weapons directed across the border. A generator and satellite dish could be seen at one location.

The show of force reflects the scale of concern in Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish population in the region, that the vote could embolden the outlawed Kurdish PKK which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s southeast.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week Ankara would not shy away from using force if necessary, and the showdown has hit the Turkish lira. It weakened beyond 3.5 to the dollar on Tuesday for the first time in four weeks.

Turkey has long seen itself as protector of the ethnic Turkmen minority, with particular concern about the oil city of Kirkuk where Kurds have extended their control since seizing the city when Islamic State overwhelmed Iraqi forces in 2014.

OIL CITY

Tensions spread to Turkish markets.

“The increasing tension before the referendum in northern Iraq continues to effect lira negatively,” Kapital FX Research Assistant Manager Enver Erkan said.

Cross-border trade, however, appeared to continue. Despite the nearby military maneuvers a kilometer line of traffic, mostly trucks and cargo, queued to enter Iraq at the Habour border gate.

Turkey’s strong economic ties to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) will weigh on any response from Ankara. The KRG pumps hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day and has approved plans for Russian oil major Rosneft to invest in pipelines to export gas to Turkey and Europe.

The military exercises came as Turkey, the central government in Baghdad and their shared neighbor Iran all stepped up protests and warnings about the independence referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdish northern Iraq.

The United States and other Western countries have also voiced concerns and asked Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to call off the vote, citing fears the referendum could distract attention from the fight against Islamic State militants.

Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ordered Barzani to suspend the vote and approved Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s demand to consider “the breakaway of any region or province from Iraq as unconstitutional”, his office said on Monday.

Turkey has brought forward to Friday a cabinet meeting and a session of its national security council to consider possible action.

(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ralph Boulton)


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British finance watchdog to implement European payments shake-up



September 19, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial watchdog said on Tuesday it will implement European Union rules aimed at opening the banking sector to greater competition.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), will also make payments cheaper and more secure.

The changes include a requirement for banks to open up their closely-guarded customer data to other firms, which can use it to offer better services, chipping away at banks’ dominance and ability to cross-sell their own products.

Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said in a statement that firms should ensure they understand what they need to do to get ready for the new regime.

The rule changes will affect banks and building societies as well as payment and e-money institutions, with fintech firms expected to benefit substantially from the changes.

PSD2 has to be implemented into national law by January 2018 – more than a year before Britain leaves the European Union.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; editing by Alexander Smith)


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Airbus looks to China for A380 jumbo amid sluggish global sales



September 19, 2017

By Brenda Goh

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese airlines could need between 60 and 100 Airbus <AIR.PA> A380 jets over the next five or so years as passenger traffic grows, the plane maker’s China head said on Tuesday, amid rising questions over future demand for the super jumbo.

Strong demand in China – if translated into orders – would be a major boost for the A380, the world’s biggest jetliner, which has faced sluggish demand as airlines shift focus towards a generation of nimbler, more fuel-efficient long-haul planes such as the A350 and rival Boeing Co’s <BA.N> 787.

China is the world’s fastest growing aviation market and is a key battleground for Airbus as well as Boeing which recently predicted the country would spend over $1 trillion on planes over the next 20 years.

“When I look at the market flow, the passenger flow, route by route and the economics, I’m fully confident that the Chinese carriers will need a minimum of 60 A380s over the next 5 to 7 years,” Airbus China Head Eric Chen said at an event in Beijing.

Airbus has sold five A380s to China Southern Airlines Co Ltd <600029.SS> but has otherwise failed to penetrate the market with the double-decker jet despite its robust demand forecasts.

The aircraft manufacturer believes the A380 will come into its own in markets that face booming tourism and congestion like China, but the aircraft has struggled to compete with smaller and more flexible twin-engined models.

In July, Airbus signed an agreement to sell 140 A320 and A350 planes to China in a deal worth almost $23 billion. China represents around 22 percent of Airbus global deliveries.

“What I can say is that if one airline takes the lead to order a large number of A380s, the others will follow. I would expect a domino effect and I’m working on it to produce that domino effect that has not happened yet,” Chen said.

He admitted though that it would not necessarily be an easy task to win over Chinese buyers.

“A lack of confidence to operate the A380, that is something to work on continuously with the airlines in China,” he said.

Europe’s largest aerospace company will on Wednesday inaugurate a completion and delivery centre for its A330 jet in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. The facility is Airbus’ first for wide-body aircraft outside Europe and is expected to deliver its first A330 aircraft this year.

Francois Mery, chief operating officer at Airbus China, said that there was talk of placing more higher-value work in China, as the company has set a target of doubling its industrial cooperation activity in the country to $1 billion by 2020.

“It’s not only about the figure, it also about the content,” he said.

“They have the ambition of getting into the business, making their own aircraft, they need to develop all kinds of things. And so without being naive, of course we are working with them.”

Airbus’ comments came as the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd (COMAC) [CMAFC.UL], which is leading China’s efforts to become a key player in the global civil aerospace market, on Tuesday announced 130 in orders for its C919 jet.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh, additional reporting by Tim Hepher in PARIS, writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Keith Weir)


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Bayer says needs more time for Monsanto deal approval



September 19, 2017

By Ludwig Burger

MONHEIM, Germany (Reuters) – German drugs and pesticides group Bayer <BAYGn.DE> said it would likely take until early next year to complete the planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto <MON.N>, which it had previously expected to be under wraps by the end of 2017.

The European Commission has been scrutinising the takeover with a deadline of Jan. 8. Bayer said in a statement it had asked the regulator for an extension to Jan. 22, to which the EU Commission responded by saying it would take a decision shortly.

Liam Condon, head of Bayer’s Crop Science division, said: “An anticipated closing of the deal in early 2018 is now more likely than end of the 2017.”

The Commission last month started an in-depth investigation of the takeover, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets.

Among a slew of markets where competition was at risk, the EU Commission at the time named Monsanto’s weed killer glyphosate, or Roundup, which competes with Bayer’s glufosinate; vegetable and canola seeds; and licensing of cotton-seed technology to peers.

More broadly, it said the deal might slow the race to develop new products, and that the European Union would try to prevent Bayer from becoming too dominant in combined offerings of seeds and pesticides with the help of digital farming tools such as connected sensors, software and precision machines.

Bayer, which was holding a media event on its Crop Science business on Tuesday, also said the division would face volatile global markets for the rest of the year but would slowly return to growth from 2018, including its embattled Brazilian business.

Bayer warned in June that poor sales at crop protection distributors in Brazil would full-year hit earnings.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)


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Germany must not end combustion engine era like UK: Foreign Minister



September 19, 2017

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany must not phase out combustion engine cars as Britain is doing, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday in the wake of an emissions scandal that has damaged the reputation of the country’s powerful carmakers.

Gabriel, a Social Democrat (SPD), also said the production of batteries for electric cars in Germany is important and needs state support.

“I am convinced we must not agree on an end to the combustion engine.. we must take steps to strengthen e-mobility but we must not in the process lose sight of the potential of the combustion engine,” said Gabriel at an industry event.

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040.

(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Caroline Copley)


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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi condemns abuses in Rakhine but rights groups skeptical



September 19, 2017

By Antoni Slodkowski

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned on Tuesday any human rights violations in troubled Rakhine State and said anyone responsible would face the law, and that she felt deeply for the suffering of everyone caught up in the conflict there.

The Nobel Peace laureate’s remarks came in her first address to the nation since attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on Aug. 25 sparked a military response that has forced more than 410,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh.

Western diplomats and aid officials attending the address welcomed Suu Kyi’s message, though some doubted if she had said enough to end the barrage of global criticism Myanmar has faced.

Human rights groups were dismissive. Amnesty International said Suu Kyi and her government were “burying their heads in the sand” for ignoring the role of the army in the violence.

The United Nations has branded the military operation in the western state ethnic cleansing. Suu Kyi did not address that but said her government was committed to the rule of law.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state,” Suu Kyi said in her address in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Long feted in the West for her role as champion of democracy in the Buddhist-majority country during years of military rule and house arrest, Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

“Action will be taken against all people regardless of their religion, race and political position, who go against the law of the land and violate human rights,” she said.

“We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict.”

The United States urged Myanmar on Monday to end military operations, grant humanitarian access, and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes.

Myanmar’s generals remain in full charge of security and Suu Kyi did not comment on the military operation, except to say that there had been “no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations” since Sept. 5.

“Nevertheless, we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border,” she said.

“We want to find out why.”

BURNING VILLAGES

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.

Myanmar rejects that, saying its security forces are carrying out operations to defend against the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which has claimed responsibility for attacks on the security forces since October.

The government has declared ARSA a terrorist organization and accused it of setting the fires and attacking civilians.

Referring to Suu Kyi’s assertion that army clearance operations had ceased, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch asked: “If that is true, then who is burning all the villages we’ve seen in the past two weeks?”

He said satellite images showed about half of all Rohingya villages had been torched and it was time that Suu Kyi, the government and military faced the fact that the security forces “don’t follow a code of conduct and shoot and kill who they want” and burn villages.

Amnesty International said there was “overwhelming evidence” the security forces were engaged in ethnic cleansing.

“While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces,” the group said.

While foreign critics raised doubts, thousands of Suu Kyi’s cheering supporters gathered in the main city of Yangon and other towns to watch her speech broadcast on big screens.

‘SINGLE SPARK’

The ambassador of China, which vies with the United States for influence in Myanmar, welcomed Suu Kyi’s speech saying it would improve understanding. Russia’s ambassador said there was no evidence of ethnic cleaning.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy also attended the address.

Suu Kyi, 72, said her government had been making every effort to promote harmony between the Muslim and largely Buddhist ethnic Rakhine communities.

A government official in Rakhine State did not seem to share Suu Kyi’s optimism about relations between the two communities.

“They have no trust for each other,” the state’s secretary, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, adding tension was high.

“The situation is ready to explode. It just needs a single spark.”

Suu Kyi said her government was committed to recommendations made by an advisory team led by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Annan’s panel recommended last month a review of a citizenship law that makes a link between citizenship and ethnicity and leaves most Rohingya stateless.

On the return of refugees, Suu Kyi said Myanmar was ready to start a verification process.

“Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problem,” she said.

She referred to a 1993 agreement with Bangladesh on verification. But few refugees were able to return under what aid workers said was a lengthy, complex process.

Suu Kyi said diplomats could visit the conflict zone and she called for support for her government’s efforts to end conflict across the country.

(Additional reporting by Wa Lone and Andrew Marshall in SITTWE, Shoon Naing, Yimou Lee in YANGON; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Michael Perry and Paul Tait)


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South Africa’s court to hear state’s appeal against Pistorius in November



September 19, 2017

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will hear the state’s appeal against Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius’ six-year murder sentence on Nov. 3, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Tuesday.

Oscar was sentenced to jail for six years in 2016 for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013. At the time, some commentators described the jail term as lenient.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Catherine Evans)


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Oil dips on rising US shale output, more hurricane uncertainty



September 19, 2017

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil markets dipped on Tuesday, pulled down by rising U.S. shale output and fears that another hurricane hitting the Caribbean could knock out refineries and disrupt shipping to and from the United States.

However, falling shipments from top exporter Saudi Arabia prevented prices from dropping further, traders said.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures <CLc1> were at $49.83 per barrel at 0537 GMT, down 8 cents from their last settlement.

U.S. shale production is set to rise for a tenth month in a row in October, the U.S. government said late on Monday. Output across seven shale plays is forecast to rise by nearly 79,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 6.1 million bpd, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly drilling productivity report.

Traders said they were closely eying the path of Hurricane Maria, another top category Atlantic storm that hit the Caribbean islands on Tuesday, to see whether it would knock out oil refineries or disrupt shipping to and from the huge U.S. market.

Outside the United States, Brent crude futures <LCOc1>, the international benchmark for oil prices, were down 15 cents at $55.33 a barrel.

Some price support came from data showing Saudi crude exports falling to 6.693 million bpd in July, down from 6.889 million bpd in June.

Saudi Arabia is the de-facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which together with some non-OPEC producers like Russia, has pledged to hold back around 1.8 million bpd of supplies this year and into 2018 in order to tighten the market and prop up prices.

But with the United States not part of this agreement, analysts said the upside for prices was limited due to the rising U.S. output.

“Prices have experienced justified strength as stocks draw, but the builds will begin again in 2018,” Barclays bank said in its September market outlook.

“Technological advancements continue to make inroads in the U.S. shale industry, boosting well-level economics … 80 percent of the cost base is below $60 per barrel (and) breakevens have fallen a further 15 percent just in the last year,” Barclays said.

It said significant amounts of producers could also operate below $40 per barrel.

“We remain bearish on prices at current levels due to expected shale growth, Chinese economy concerns,” the bank said, adding that its average Brent and WTI price forecast was $53 and $49 per barrel, respectively, for this year and $52 and $49 per barrel for 2018.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford)


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Indonesian police detain 22 over violent anti-communist protest



September 19, 2017

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities detained 22 people late on Monday after a violent mob clashed with police at an anti-communist protest in the capital Jakarta.

President Joko Widodo’s government has tried to redress a bloody 1965 anti-communist purge, one of the darkest periods in the country’s history, but tensions remain over the purge in which an estimated 500,000 people were killed.

“The public cannot take the law into their own hands, they must defer to law enforcement apparatus,” Widodo said in a statement issued after the clashes.

Communism is banned in Indonesia and any sympathizers are regarded with a deep suspicion and hostility, especially by nationalists and Islamists.

Five police were injured in the clashes when a mob of around 200 gathered outside the Legal Aid Foundation in central Jakarta, which had held a seminar on the 1965 killings at the weekend.

Protesters threw rocks and water bottles and police fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd, according to media.

Activists called for authorities to safeguard such events and for the public to “look critically at history”.

“Repressive attitudes and allowing anarchists to threaten people’s rights will cripple our democracy,” the national commission for women’s rights said in a statement.

“There are victims of 1965 and the stigma associated with (communism) that deserve truth, justice, and healing.”

The anti-communist purge started in late 1965 after then-general Suharto and the military took power following an abortive communist coup. A million or more people were jailed, suspected of being communists.

Successive governments have refused to accept the estimated death toll figure and have refrained from apologizing.

The military, which is accused by activists of gross human rights violations during the 1965 purge, has bristled at any reconciliation efforts.

Military chief Gatot Nurmantyo this year ordered a Suharto-era propaganda film to be screened for soldiers across the country to mark the anniversary of the abortive coup on Sept 30, 1965, the night before the violence was unleashed.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Jakarta bureau; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Michael Perry)


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Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy protection



September 19, 2017

(Reuters) – Toys “R” Us Inc, the largest U.S. toy store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, the latest sign of turmoil in the retail industry caught in a viselike grip of online shopping and discount chains.

The Chapter 11 filing is among the largest ever by a specialty retailer and casts doubt over the future of the company’s approximately 1,600 stores and 64,000 employees. It comes just as Toys “R” Us is gearing up for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for the bulk of its sales.

Toys “R” Us filed the petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)


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